Lessons of The Barbell

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At 23 years old, I proudly wear the titles of Technical Recruiter, Cross-Fitter and Olympic Weightlifter. One is my career; the others are my passion. The lessons I’ve learned at the barbell have carried over into my career. The long hours sweating in the gym, talking myself through grueling workouts, being under the lights in competitions, and the hard-core hustle of being an athlete has proven to make me the successful recruiter I am today. Who would have known that the culmination of my athletic career and the pursuit of my dreams would teach me life lessons that I would forever hold close to my heart and apply to every aspect of my life?

1)    Are you “hefty hefty” or “wimpy wimpy”? Being a Technical Recruiter is NOT for the faint of heart. Recruiting is like riding an emotional roller coaster. Some days your hands are waving in the air and you are high on life!  Conversely, the next day can have your stomach in knots and you wanting to throw your head piece. Yes…it can be that extreme of emotions. The pursuit of being an elite athlete is very similar in this sense. Some days at the gym, you see the fruits of your labor come together perfectly. The weight is being thrown around easy. You leave the gym knowing you crushed that workout and it felt great. It’s all smiles and fist pumps. But then, the next day you have grabbed a seat on the struggle bus. Your body aches, you’re tired of the thousands of reps perfecting technique, and you have pushed the limits of your physical and mental capacities. However, Iooking back I wouldn’t trade a tough day in the world. As an athlete (and recruiter) it’s these struggles that have made me strong.  Whenever I’m frustrated, annoyed, sore or tired, I know how to turn off the “wimpy” voice and CHOOSE to be “hefty”.

2)    Setbacks are an opportunity for a comeback. Weightlifting and CrossFit challenge you in every way possible. Mentally, spiritually, and physically. When I have a rough day at practice or a bad competition, I have learned the art of letting-go. I revisit the drawing board and make adjustments as needed.  Just like recruiting, you WILL have losses that hurt and straight-up bad days. But over time I have learned that bad days make you appreciate the good ones that much more. You can look at failures as a setback or you can move forward saying, “I never lose… I either win or I LEARN!

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3)    “It’s time to trust.” Whenever I got anxious before a competition, my dear friend and mentor Katrina Young, 2016 Olympic Diver, would always whisper in my ear, “Alexia, it’s time to trust.” Recruiting is a grind. Most days are digging for leads, sourcing, and eagerly searching to find the “perfect” candidate. There are moments when the process seems to be monotonous and maybe even broken. But as a collegiate diver and Olympic weightlifter, I have learned to turn my brain off and trust the process. I trust that the attention to detail, consistency, and resiliency will pay off in the end. When the waters get rough and you feel like you are treading, I encourage you to focus on the process and put your trust in it.

4)    #HWPO – Hard Work Pays Off. Mat Frazier, arguably the most talented and fittest man on earth didn’t reinvent the wheel when he made this abbreviation his life motto. He added a hashtag and made this phrase HIS mantra. Winning medals and standing at the top of the podium was never achieved by talent alone. Often times, it is the result of the daily grind. It’s the dedication to give your best every day. It can be a hard ask, but a worthwhile one in the end. Whenever I feel the slumps of recruiting, I fall back on my work ethic that I’ve groomed and established since I was a little girl. I don’t get caught up in the things I can’t control, but instead use the valleys as motivation to keep climbing. Keep working. Keep grinding. In recruiting, you work with all different kinds of personalities, none of which you can control. Learning that I just have to do my best and things will fall into place as they are supposed to be.

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5)    Team work makes the dream work. As an elite athlete, I have learned to value my teammates, coaches, friends, and family more than anything. These are the people I celebrate my victories with and lean on during times of tribulation.  When I don’t think I can lift heavier weights, run a faster time, or push through the pain, these people tell me otherwise. They hold me to a higher standard. They don’t listen to my excuses and they hold me accountable. FIND THESE PEOPLE.  I have learned that there is strength in numbers and something very powerful when you have your peers sweating and giving it their all next to you. Surround yourself with people who are better and more successful than you. As a recruiter, I lean on my colleagues tremendously. Our successes are a group effort. We lift each other up & celebrate one another. My team at OIAM is full of team members that lift me up and want me to be successful. My success is their success. I have never been a part of a more collaborative and supportive team. This team is definitely one in a million.

6) Believe! Last year, I was approached by the CEO of USA Olympic Weightlifting to give the sport a try because he saw potential in me. One year later, I stood at my first National competition with two bronze medals around my neck. It wasn’t his words that got me there or even my coaches. It wasn’t my teammates or my parents. Yes…their support and words of wisdom helped tremendously. But my success has always stemmed from the belief in myself. I would be lying to you if I didn’t say I have struggled with doubt and fear in my athletic and professional career as a recruiter. But, no matter how many times I have fallen and failed, I have learned to believe in myself. YOU can be your greatest strength or worst enemy. To be a CHAMPION, you have to believe in yourself when no one else does.

In closing, I reflect on these lessons with a great sense of pride and gratitude. As an Olympic lifter, I squat heavy loads frequently. I have learned that squatting is the perfect analogy for life. The loads will be heavy, but it’s about standing back up after something heavy brings you down. Whether it’s your career goals or life in general weighing you down, I am asking you to dig deep, believe you’re a champion, and stand back up. Be unconquered and know that I’m cheering you on the entire way.

Xoxo,

Alexia



Alignment

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Peace out 2018. While it’s been fun, most of us our looking forward to strolling into 2019 and making this our best year yet. How are you setting yourself up for success this go around? This year, our team is spending the second week of January at a beach retreat to come together and align. We will look back at 2018 and celebrate the wins. We will look at what we could have done better and we will make sure we are all positively aligned in all the right ways to start anew. Intentionally setting yourself up for success is key and each year is a new opportunity to be better than you were the year before.

Where to start? As an entrepreneur, I like to focus on a few key elements. I have to ask myself, are our core values as an organization still true? Do they still work or could we do better? We use core values to hire really talented people.That said, do our own people still align with our core values? One of the most important pieces to focus on in this puzzle is your internal team members happiness levels. Are you checking in with them to see if their career path is still going in the direction they were hoping for. What is their happiness level on a scale of 1-10? Use this as a tool to create tangible action items to keep your people aligned.

We just published our first book this past year on culture driven recruiting. You can check out the book out here on Amazon! This short read is great for anyone looking to find meaning in their career, or anyone looking to build a place where people actually want to show up to work. This resource is super helpful in identifying how to become aligned as an organization. This book also has several exercises that you can do with your team to gear up for the best year yet!

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Life is too short to be misaligned in any direction. So, before you kick off this new year ask yourself a few questions:

What do I value?

Why do I value it?

What makes me feel alive in this world?

Are you in job that makes you excited to get out of  bed?

Are you in love with the mission of the company you are building?

Make this new year a year of severe intention, be deliberate about your decisions and align your core values so strongly there is no hesitation.

You Got This,

Your Friends @ OIAM

Why is cultural fit important in recruiting? It’s about valuing people

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In a rapidly evolving hiring climate where 76% of recruiters are struggling to find candidates, one wonders what the “magic” solution is. Truth is, there is none, yet there must be more to it than just the traditional approach of posting a job ad, screening candidates for work background and academia, and interviewing them. And there’s certainly more to attracting a candidate than just throwing more money onto the table.

Imagine if you hired someone because you thought they’d be a great cultural fit for your company’s overall values and vision, and not just because of their MBA from Harvard or doctorate degree from Oxford. This is the approach taken by OneInAMil, a recruitment agency that focuses on what its founder, Lee-Anne Edwards, terms “culture-driven recruitment.”

In November, Workable had the opportunity to host Lee-Anne at our high-rise office in downtown Boston. Attendees enjoyed networking, cocktails and a fireside chat around forming an irresistible company culture to attract ideal candidates and the impact of culture on recruitment and selection. Our team also interviewed OneInAMil talent matchmaker Alexia Gonzalez that same week, and we picked up a few valuable tips which I’m going to share here.

A first-hand experience

Alexia comes straight from the trenches; she herself was recruited by OneInAMil to be one of their recruiters. In an one-hour interview, she talked with us about how she folded her experience as a OneInAMil candidate into her current job in identifying and attracting ideal candidates for clients of OneInAMil, and straight-up answering the question: “Why is cultural fit important?”

Alexia’s experience began with her first point of contact, OneInAMil head recruiter, Madison Loomis. Madison’s approach focused more on having a conversation as opposed to the more traditional “We have a job you might be interested in” approach. As Alexia explains:

“I think most of my interview with [Madison] was just talking about what I like to do outside of work, which was really cool. She wanted to know who I was as a person.”

OneInAMil’s follow-up was also respectful of Alexia’s own motivations: “They made me an offer and they were not pushy about it at all. That was another thing, they were just like: ‘We want you on our team, but we value and respect what decision you want to go with’.”

Almost immediately after Alexia accepted, she received an Edible Arrangement from the agency, followed up later with another box of goodies. “It felt like Christmas,” Alexia says, smiling. “It was just so much love.”

While she jokes that “love” is a strong word, it’s not for nothing. She has taken that experience in being recruited and put it forward in her own work, and shared her expertise with us on common recruitment and workplace challenges.

Related: Cultural fit interview questions

It’s more than just ping pong

For instance, how do you attract candidates in an intensely competitive job market filled with perks such as flexible hours and unlimited time off? Candidates from the millennial and Gen Z generations are looking for more than just a good paycheck. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with offering perks such as remote work or work-from-home opportunities, or an open-concept office with free lunches and beer on tap, it goes a lot deeper than that for many. As Workable CEO Nikos Moraitakis once said, “No one ever came to work because of the ping pong tables. Even less so, stayed for them.”

So what puts OneInAMil ahead of the curve? In her fireside chat, Lee-Anne emphasized that it’s about putting culture at the center of your recruitment strategy. Today’s candidates are looking for a good cultural fit; if they’re going to spend more than 40 hours a week in one office with the same people day in and day out, they want the culture to feel “right” for them. In short: when you’re recruiting candidates, consider recruiting for cultural fit. Promote your company’s culture and values as part of the overall “benefits” package.

And how do you start evaluating your company’s culture? Start by thinking about who you want to work in your organization and how you can keep them. Define three words to describe your company values, and consider if your candidates and employees share these values. If you’re hiring people who share your core values, the rest should fall into place.

Navigating the fine balance

Of course, it’s not just about your own company culture. You need to consider the culture of your candidates and your employees. You want to show them that you know they have a life outside of the workplace, and that you value their individual thoughts and opinions, priorities and goals. Alexia attests to this important facet of the work-life balance.

“You need to be able to keep work at work and be able to have time to nurture yourself and to refresh, to be balanced,” she says. “The company enables you to have that work-life balance, but I think as a person you can find structure if you want it. And you can really make time for the things that are important to you and prioritize [them].”

But people’s priorities differ. For instance, not everyone wants to clock out at 5 every day, and not everyone wants to stay until 11 at night. Many have kids to pick up and important projects outside of the workplace, while many others revel in burning the midnight oil at the office. How do you navigate those apparent, potentially awkward differences in work commitments?

Alexia’s answer is straightforward: validation and affirmation. “If somebody wants to leave at five, you tell them – and as a company I think you should be vocal about it – [something] like: ‘Hey, you put some really great work in today. You deserve to leave at five.’ [And] the person who wants to stay in for twelve hours: ‘Hey, we love that you love your work and that this is what you want to do.’”

Validation of opposing approaches can be a powerful thing, Alexia explains:

“If the company is vocal about valuing what a person wants, whether that’s them staying at the office longer or leaving [early], then that’s OK.”

Candidates and employees also have different personal and professional goals, and it’s important to recognize those as well. As Lee-Anne said during her fireside chat, the most desired benefit for a candidate is to gain knowledge and professional growth in smart and innovative teams. Millennials & Gen Zers tend to look at jobs like projects; they don’t stay in one place for a decade or more like those before them. You’ll attract – and more importantly, retain – talent by building a culture that offers them freedom, flexibility and professional growth. Lee-Anne added, “You can have an amazing product and tons of funding, but if you don’t have the people to build your company, you have nothing.”

To attract these people, you want to show leadership and flexibility. You want to recognize the strengths in each individual employee, and what motivates them to come to work and be able to give their absolute best and not burning out. It’s about letting them do what they need to do, Alexia recommends.

Culture doesn’t mean uniformity

We can’t pretend that everyone can work together seamlessly, though. For instance, the current political climate in many countries – including the United States under the Trump administration and the United Kingdom in the midst of the Brexit affair – has made it difficult for some to work together when they have opposing viewpoints. This is a time when families are breaking apart due to emotionally charged conflicts over contentious issues. It’s hard to imagine how the workplace can be any different. So how do we handle this?

First things first, Alexia says, it’s important that the company establishes its culture and brings in employees who can differ in opinion but work together toward the same goals. “Culture to me doesn’t mean everyone thinks the same,” she says. She adds:

”I think different viewpoints within a company is an asset; you want somebody to offer new and fresh perspectives.”

While it can be awkward – even difficult – for a newly landed immigrant to imagine working with an outspoken Trump supporter on a mutual project, Alexia reminds us to focus on the bigger picture and beyond that, let the chips fall where they may; but respectfully and with mutual acknowledgment, of course.

“You need to look for somebody who can align with the vision of the company, who can align with the mission statement,” Alexia explains. She reminds us that this doesn’t mean aligning world views: “In regards of their personal opinions matching with their colleagues – that, to me, doesn’t have to do with the [company] culture.”

Alexia takes us back to the emphasis on appreciating the individual beyond the skills that they bring to the table: “Respect always has to be there…I think it’s healthy for people to be unique, have their own beliefs, and be able to share those in a respectful way where it can promote growth and change and love, and overall a good experience for the company.”

But, regardless of difference in work commitments, political opinions or approaches to a project, appreciation and understanding has to go both ways including from a candidate to a recruiter and vice versa: “You find the best talent by appreciating somebody’s uniqueness and that means all fronts of who they are, professionally and personally, and bring that to the table.”

Stop and listen

So how do you find out where a candidate’s values lie and what they want out of a job? Alexia’s answer is simple: shut up and listen. “I’ve learned silence is a really, really good thing as a recruiter. Sometimes recruiters can talk, talk, talk, and we want to ask questions so we can get an answer so we can write it down.”

Instead, Alexia says, “I sometimes just like to ask the question; what are you looking for out of a company? What kind of culture do you want to be a part of? And then I just be silent, and I listen. And they’ll tell me, explaining what they want out of leadership, what kind of company they want to be around. Whether it’s more big and established or not; [whether] they want to be in the trenches of the startup or kick back and drink a beer with their colleagues or ‘When I’m done with work, I want to go home, and work is work and my social life is my social life.’”

Through this, Alexia is also able to assess the intangibles that someone brings to the table. A candidate’s background, academic prowess or career expertise is not the only determining factor in whether they’re ideal for the position. They could be a star coder or pass the assessment test with flying colors, but their intangibles could be a dealbreaker, she says.

“If they just don’t treat others right, they’re rude, they’re short on the phone, they’re impatient, that’s not gonna make me feel good,” Alexia says of her experience in screening candidates for OneInAMil’s clients.

“They don’t have the soft skills to back up the hard skills. That company is not going to retain that talent because they’re going to frustrate their colleagues, they might not be happy there, so I think it’s a disservice to a client if you don’t look at a candidate from numerous angles.”

It’s all in the brand

It’s all about the brand, Lee-Anne explained at our office. Your employees are the faces of your company, so you want them to be happy and feel respected. You also want potential candidates to want to work for you. This means your brand isn’t just about the product or service you offer; it’s also about the workplace environment and the company culture. Ensuring that your brand has a strong and positive reputation is essential, particularly in this digital age.

In order to keep perceptions of your brand positive, you need to do your homework online. Conduct some digital research into how your brand appears across social channels and other platforms. People don’t buy products without reading the reviews first, and the same goes for jobs. Keep your finger on the pulse of how people talk about you on Google Reviews, Glassdoor, Indeed, and Facebook. Take control of your social media channels and engage with people who interact with your brand.

Social media is not just a wonderful tool for sharing open roles; it’s also an opportunity to showcase your company and your values. Share photos and stories from internal events, volunteer days and highlight individual employees. Also, enlist everyone in your organization for recruiting and encourage them to consider their LinkedIn network for prospects.

Lee-Anne said, “I have an ‘always be hiring’ mindset. Everyone is responsible for bringing in smart people they want to work with”. A great motivator for referrals, she adds, is the opportunity to work alongside someone you like and respect. When you pull together the company culture, values and brand into a single-stream effort in recruitment, you will end up with a powerful, dedicated, motivated team.

During our one-hour meeting with Alexia, it was clear she loves working at OneInAMil – and she isn’t just saying that to be on brand herself. She is a walking, talking testament to the brand’s philosophy of culture-driven recruitment. There is an enthusiastic sincerity in her voice that shows her love for the company:

“I know it [when I’m] having a good day: they celebrate my victories and my wins. If I’m having a low day, they’re in the trenches with me and they’re gonna help me. And I don’t doubt that for a second. I don’t feel bad about asking for help. They’re so good about being in tune with where I’m at, [asking me] if I need help, congratulating me.”

It makes a huge difference knowing that every morning, you start the day surrounded by a team that believes in you through both the good and bad days, Alexia emphasizes. “It makes recruiting so much more fun.”

It’s this attitude that puts OneInAMil ahead, Alexia adds. “We’ve got the best talent at a company because of our process, not because of anything else.

“[Candidates] don’t remember how much money you offered them. They’re not going to remember those things that are superficial. They’re going to remember how you made them feel.“

Workable’s Events Marketing Associate Carolyn Martin attended the OneInAMil fireside chat and contributed to this report.

Workable’s networking events began in 2017 with an idea to create a special learning experience for the local community of recruiters, human resources and talent acquisition professionals. The evening is designed to provide attendees with helpful advice and takeaways from experts on how to strengthen their hiring strategy for the new year. For our first Boston event of 2019, Workable is partnering with She Geeks Out to kick off the new year with a discussion on the crucial intersection point of gender and age, and how that plays into your D&I strategy.

This was written by Keith MacKenzie, Workable's content strategy manager! You can find the original post HERE!